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Reviewing The Blazing Star by Imani Josey: Time Traveling Black Girl Magic

Today, I have a review for The Blazing Star by Imani Josey, if you can tear your eyes away from the cover long enough to read it.

About the Book:

Author: Imani Josey
Publication Date: December 6th, 2016
Genres: Fantasy, Historical Fiction, and Young Adult
Page Number: 239
Publisher: Wise Ink Creative Publishing
Inclusion of Diversity: Features African-American protagonists
Sixteen-year-old Portia White is used to being overlooked—after all, her twin sister Alex is a literal genius. But when Portia holds an Egyptian scarab beetle during history class, she takes center stage in a way she never expected: she faints. Upon waking, she is stronger, faster, and braver than before. And when she accidentally touches the scarab again? She wakes up in ancient Egypt—her sister and an unwitting freshman in tow. Great. Mysterious and beautiful, Egypt is more than they could have ever imagined from their days in the classroom. History comes alive as the three teens realize that getting back to the present will be the most difficult thing they’ve ever done. Stalked by vicious monsters called Scorpions, every step in the right direction means a step closer to danger. As Portia and the girls discover that they’re linked to the past by more than just chance, they have to decide what it truly means to be yourself, to love your sister, and to find your way home.

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I wanted to read and love The Blazing Star because Cover Love + Black Girl Magic. Sadly, The Blazing Star and I did not get along after the first few page in the beginning. It felt off, I kept wondering why people were acting so off and artificial.

Like you don't even ask your sister WTF was going on with talking in tongues, fainting, and all of a sudden coming down with the flu? And suddenly knowing how to fight? You say she's been acting weird lately but I'm pretty sure not THAT weird. I expected more grilling, more probing, more reaction. Of all the times to ask if someone is on drugs...

Given what I find out about Alex later, it makes more sense her being presumptuous and silent. However, it doesn't sit right nor make a good first impression.

There was several other things like that which stuck out. Like when Dude and Portia meet on the banks of the river. Who finds someone babbling about shit that doesn't make sense, things that your language doesn't even have words for and take them to their old nurse for treatment in the middle of the night? Portia herself takes a while to clue in that she's not in Kansas anymore. Denial is a powerful thing, but damn was it annoying.

Once our trio get settled into Egypt and wondering briefly how it's so easy and natural for them, it got better and easier to just enjoy the ride. I love the priestesses and the daily life we see in Egypt.

Magic is present from the beginning but doesn't play a larger part until around halfway through. Once the princess pops up and the Scorpions come out to play, it really gets rolling. Sneaking in and out of temples, magical cats, and oh my, is that a flirty attractive guy? Yes, yes, and oh yeah.

Girl power is mightily present but Portia, Alex, and Selene aren't the three musketeers yet. There's problems from the present and past that they need to excavate and that's coming next. The Blazing Star is all set-up. The players are introduced, romance sparked, and the arch is ready to be followed now.

Which means there isn't character progression and it's plot driven. If you're looking for something deeper, you'll have to put in the time for the next book or come back to The Blazing Star when you want what it has to offer.

The explanations that come later soothe the problems in the past and opens up new questions. Alex raises some good questions, and the response she receives speak volumes: it doesn't matter. At least, not now.

They've got someone to save, a war to fight, evil to defeat, and another royal wedding to plan. The exact hows and whys of how this time-travel magical set up worked is inconsequential to the action-adventure paranormal romance story in ancient Egypt.

The Blazing Star makes Portia appreciate being in the moment and moving forward without trying to hide or being someone she's not, which is the way I think it should be read.

I enjoyed reading Nemesis more in general, but The Blazing Star does Egypt with their mythology and magic better and I think it'll really pay off as the series continues. If you can make it past the rough start and enjoy exploring Egypt, you should definitely pick it up. Plus, the twinning dynamic is really interesting and I want to find out what's going on with them. Not to mention how the freshman ties into it and the sweethearts.

Author Bio

Imani Josey is a writer from Chicago, Illinois. In her previous life, she was a cheerleader for the Chicago Bulls and won the titles of Miss Chicago and Miss Cook County for the Miss America Organization, as well as Miss Black Illinois USA. Her one-act play, Grace, was produced by Pegasus Players Theatre Chicago after winning the 19th Annual Young Playwrights Festival. In recent years, she has turned her sights to long-form fiction. She now spends the majority of her time working on backstory, teaching dance fitness classes, and cuddling with her American bulldog, Thor. The Blazing Star is her debut novel.


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Review, Excerpt & Giveaway: Belle Chasse by Suzanne Johnson

Belle Chasse by Suzanne Johnson

Sentinels of New Orleans Book 5
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Publisher: TOR Books
Date of Publication: November 8, 2016

Book Description:
Suzanne Johnson's "strong and intriguing" (Publishers Weekly) urban fantasy series continues with Belle Chasse. The Sentinels of New Orleans series has earned starred reviews from Library Journal ("a resourceful heroine who relies on her magical ingenuity") and PW ("vivid...a lively tale jam-packed with action, magic, and intriguing plot twists").

With the wizard-elven treaty on the verge of collapse, the preternatural world stands on the brink of war. Unless former wizard sentinel DJ Jaco manages to keep the elven leader, Quince Randolph, focused on peace and not personal matters.

With no one on the throne, Faerie is in chaos, with rival princes battling for power. The still-undead pirate, Jean Lafitte, is building his own army of misfits, and DJ stripped of her job and hiding in the Beyond to avoid the death sentence handed down by the wizard Council of Elders can’t get anywhere near her beloved New Orleans or her significant something-or-other, Alex.

It's time to choose sides. Friends will become enemies, enemies will become allies, and not everyone will survive. DJ and her friends will learn a hard lesson: sometimes, even the ultimate sacrifice isn’t enough.

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I expected Christof to start a snowstorm above Rand’s head. What I didn’t expect was for the prince to lower his head and charge Rand like a raging bull, head-butting him in the midsection. They hit the ground, and I saw my chance at the same time Eugenie spotted me.
I motioned her toward the woods where the transport lay. To hell with the Blue Congress wizards. We were going to make a run for it while Christof kept Rand too busy to notice.
She set off for the woods, and I met her halfway. “My family thinks I’m crazy!” she wailed, loud enough to draw the attention of the tall, skinny Blue Congress wizard with the rooster haircut.
“Hey, stop!”
Holy crap. I whipped out the elven staff, paused long enough to aim just to the right of the wizards. They already had their hands up and were doing some of their nifty Blue Congress magic when I released my fire and blew up the tombstone next to them, sending a rain of marble and playing cards onto their heads. Around us, evidence of their magic appeared as tombstones began moving to block our escape route.
I grabbed Eugenie’s arm and pulled her around a marble stag the size of a small SUV. It had lowered its head and pawed the ground as if to charge. Blue Congress magic was so damned cool— create and re-create.
“Stop, DJ!” Eugenie grabbed my arm as I tried to race past her. “A sinkhole!”
I looked stupidly at the ground in front of us, which had opened a gulf big enough to drive a Greyhound bus into. “Go around and run fast,” I shouted, sending another shot of the staff toward the Blue Congress wizards and blowing up a ginormous marble eagle perched atop a nearby tomb.
We didn’t stop to see if the stag was chasing us, but ran for all we were worth. Finally, at the edge of the tree line, I hazarded a look back at Christof and Rand. The faery stood watching us; the elf had crumpled on the ground. Not dead, though, because in my head, far behind my protective barriers, I heard him yelling my name.
Christof grinned and motioned for us to move along. He didn’t have to motion twice, because the wizards were chasing us, still chanting and doing their finger dance. The stag was getting way too close.
I raised the staff and blew a hole in the earth in front of the advancing stag, forcing him to change direction. Luck was on our side for a change— the stag began charging toward the wizards instead, who had to stop pursuing us in order to protect themselves from being trampled beneath marble hooves.
“Let’s run to the transport before those idiot wizards can get out from under the stag.” I grabbed Eugenie’s hand and we ran to the clearing. “Help me roll this werewolf out of the transport.”
To her credit, she didn’t ask a single question. We tipped the werewolf onto his side and rolled him outside the interlocking circle and triangle, leaving him at an awkward angle with his
feet in the air. Oh well.
I touched the staff to the edge of the transport and said, “Winter Palace, Faery” just before the Blue Congress wizards reached the edge of the clearing. I waved at them as the transport sucked the air out of my lungs. They were too late.
As soon as we materialized on the round floor of ice in the Winter Palace, Eugenie screamed. I figured she was getting her first look at the grisly remains of Faerie Princess Tamara until a blinding light knocked me off my feet and a big crack appeared in the ice between us.
“Where is my brother?”
I whirled to see Florian sitting on a block of ice behind us bundled in a heavy coat, a blanket spread beneath him, no doubt to protect his royal assets from getting cold and wet.
“He’s in Shreveport, Louisiana, at Our Lady of Perpetual Help church, having a fist fight with an elf,” I said, pretty confident that of all the things he might expect me to say, that wasn’t it.

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If you're a fan of the series, Belle Chasse is a must read. Especially after book 4, Pirate's Alley's cliffhanger.

While there are open threads and overarching plots to follow, at the end of Belle Chasse there's been a lot of forward movement in the short action-packed time frame. Several things are resolved and certain characters have developed and changed due to the adversity. Which brings me to the one failure of the novel -- besides the status quo lack of diversity.

At the end, there's an ultimate sacrifice like the blurb says. However, it didn't impact me. It should've. But, it felt obvious. Things were just too good, if you know what I mean. I wish something else could've caused the epiphany needed to advert the stupid stubbornness that cause this incident in the first place.

I'd actually prefer they switched places --that'd really be shocking, different and have a bigger impact. I was sad to see someone I loved so much pushed to the back and then used in such a way. Feels like a waste of a great character.

Of course, I'll still be continuing the series. The plot and DJ are just too good to pass up. Sentinels of New Orleans is definitely one of my favorite paranormal romance series.

There are worse reads, but there's also more diverse reads. I also recommend the Mercy Thompson series and the Urban Dragon series.

If you've haven't tried Sentinel of New Orleans yet, you should. The first book, Royal Street deals directly with Hurricane Katrina and is heart wrenchingly realistic.

For a VERY different kind of read that's about a Katrina living and surviving in the 9th ward, there's What Remained of Katrina.

About the Author:

Suzanne Johnson is the author of the award-winning Sentinels of New Orleans urban fantasy series but perhaps is best known for her romantic suspense and paranormal romance books written as Susannah Sandlin, including the Penton Vampire Legacy paranormal romance series, the Wilds of the Bayou suspense series, and The Collectors romantic thriller series. Her awards include two Holt Medallions in 2013 and 2015, a 2015 Booksellers Best Award in romantic suspense, and nominations in 2014 and 2015 for the RT Book Reviews Reviewers Choice Award. A displaced New Orleanian, she currently lives in Auburn, Alabama. Suzanne loves SEC football, fried gator on a stick, all things Cajun, and redneck reality TV.

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A Must Read: 5 Stars, Excerpt, Interview & Giveaway for The Jakkattu Vector by P.K. Tyler


Welcome to another Novel Publicity tour! We're so excited for the release of The Jakkattu Vector by P.K. Tyler that we wanted to celebrate with a great giveaway featuring a Kindle Fire, one of a kind Jakkattu Vector bookmark and a special book bundle from the author herself!

The first book I read of P.K. Tyler’s was Sandstorm, under the name Pavarti K. Tyler. WHICH IM STILL WAITING FOR A SEQUEL *COUGH*

It was amazing – 5 Stars easily. She was immediately put on my watch list, the good kind, and all her books went on my TBR. And she fucking did it again.

Now this will be short because it’s hard to talk about without spoiling anything and I have a migraine that just won’t quit. Going on two days now. It’s the only time I hate having a mechanical keyboard.

About the Book

They came as saviors to a deteriorating Earth

Julip Thorne questions whether there is more to life beyond the barren dirt, acidic seas, and toxstorms her people work and die in. Living in poverty on the withering Greenland Human Reservation, she wonders if the alien Mezna goddesses are truly as holy as the temple preaches. Julip begins to dig deeper into the history of the planet and her leaders’ rise to power. But nothing can prepare her for the atrocities she uncovers.

Meanwhile, Jakkattu prisoner Sabaal suffers constant torture and heinous medical experiments as her Mezna-priest captors seek to unlock the key to her genetic makeup. Escaping from captivity, she finds herself suddenly alone on the hostile alien planet of Earth. To survive, she’s forced to work with the same Mezna-human hybrids she’s loathed her entire life, but the more they work together, the more they realize that their enemy is the same.

When humans and Mezna collide, will Sabaal turn out to be the genetic vector the Mezna have been searching for all along, or will she spark the flame that sets a revolution ablaze?

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The Feral

IT STARTED TO RAIN AS they walked, but Norwood kept an impossible pace. Julip slipped and fell more than once, but he just kept going. She guessed he was right to hurry; they had to get back before nightfall so they didn’t get caught. Ma would be furious as it was, what with them gone missing for so much of the day.

The sky darkened despite it still being midday, and clouds rolled in behind them. Back home it would be a mess. Rain put everyone in a sour mood. The sea was too volatile to risk going out when it stormed, and while the rainwater was clean and safe, the ocean steeped in chemicals that could peel a person’s skin before too long. Their father had burning water scars up and down his arms and speckled across his face from working as a jellyfisher for so long. By comparison to other men who worked the sea, he had remained pretty intact.

The Cotillion was probably having a great time. Rain meant clean air and fresh water, for a little while at least. Sometimes if the rain came at the same time as a toxstorm, it would bring the fumes down to Earth, keeping everyone inside for days, sometimes weeks. The last time that happened, Julip had been nine and was forced to stay in her parents’ dwell with no one but her brother for nineteen straight days. The damage the fumes caused still marred the walls of the bedroom they shared.

The siblings had complained, begged to be allowed outside, but nothing they said or did would convince the adults to let them go. Only her father ventured out to pick up a daily ration of food and water from the Center-of-It-All. He would bundle up, covered from head to toe in fabric and plastic. Even his head was wrapped in one of her mother’s scarves, and his eyes hid behind goggles he’d made out of extra window plastic.

Thirteen people died during that storm, and two more were blinded. For months after, there was a rash of stillbirths on the reservation. The Daughters all agreed that the fumes had come down and poisoned the babes. It’d been five years since the last bad toxstorm whipped through Greenland, so one was due to come soon. Julip loved the cool rain as it soaked through her scarf. She uncovered her head and felt the water trickle down her face and saturate her hair. Parents would take the littlest kids on the rez outside, strip them, and scrub them red. Clean rain meant a real washing, not a quick, timed wipe-down with the gray water from the sinks.

Norwood pulled a canteen from his trouser pocket and caught drips of water from the oversized leaves surrounding them. The trees weren’t much taller than him, but the forest canopy closed in as they walked. Soon they walked on dry earth, and the only remaining evidence of the rain was the heaviness of her hair and the sound of water dripping on leaves high above.
“I’ve never been deep in the Wilds,” she said.
“Ya’ve never been shallow in the Wilds.”
“True, but there ain’t even words for this back home. It smells different, dirty, but my nose ain’t pained by it.”
“‘Cause it’s real. This dirt is from the Earth, not the toxes.”
“Why do we have so much tox on the rez if this is right here?”
“I dunno, but I reckon it’s ‘cause we’re human. People made the toxes. In some way, I guess it’s only right we live in ‘em.”
A howl rose from deep in the forest, and Julip yelped and bent down, trying to blend in, hide in the underbrush. Her legs wanted to give out, but she squeezed her eyes shut and demanded her body not betray her

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Content Warning: Torture, Violence, Non Consensual Acts

The Jakkattu Vector is an awesome Sci-Fi work featuring 5 variations of humanoids with beautifully flawed humanity. We’ve got the human reservations, the two types of hybrids living in the Menza cities, the Feral, Sabaal, and the Menza lording above them all.

The noob interloper audience stand-in is a non-issue as they all are in various ways. I love how it’s different groups of people converging to piece together the truth. The “why are they speaking English?” problem is dealt with in a clever way that fits the story perfectly and makes it more immersive.

Not only do we get perspectives from Sabaal and Julip, who are named in the blurb, but several other players have chapters throughout and there’s even journal entries. It all works together without losing track of who’s who and builds to keep you reading, guessing, turning the pages as fast as you can.

Sabaal is readily my favorite character for everything, but I quickly became attached and absorbed with them all. All their voices, including the dialects they speak in, felt right. It takes a minute to adjust, but that works since others around them are adjusting to it too, so it’s immersive not disruptive.

The e-book clocks in at 300 pages but it took me a week and felt like Sci-Fi epic. The best kind, the kind that dissects, examines, and illuminates human issues like religion, class, sexism, and racism. Plus, no damn Magical Space Minority or scantily glad humble-brag goddess or alpha males or condescending Space Racism.

It felt like a long book, because every POV, every passage brings it. It’s not simple mindless entertainment with laser swords or bedding alien babes. I was hooked but this is not a book you fly through. You sit. Savor. Think. Twist and Untwist it around and around. And dive back in eyes open. Until the last 10-20% OMFGWTFBBQ!!!!!!! Happens.

I will ABSOLUTELY be continuing and I cannot wait until the next installment. One click, no brainer. Looks like I’m forever waiting with Tyler. *sigh* At least I have some backlog to catch up on….

Did I mention all the damn quotes?

Here’s a very small sampling I picked out that doesn’t have spoilers to share:

He so enjoyed this game—forcing her to speak the language of her captors, of the chosen few.

Abominations. Your Great Mother should fall of the moon and fry in the flares of the nearest star.

The agitation in the voice washed over her and slid down the other side, so she left it behind like a trail of slime.

Freedom might include starvation and hypothermia but at least it belonged to her and no one else.

You’re nothing more than shit on the bottom of the universe’s shoe.

To work with one’s hands, to mine and sew and live off the scraps of others—this is no culture. This is the remnant of culture, the dregs of a once-great civilization.

Stars in the daytime, like kindly monsters, were things that shouldn’t be.

She walked around for days like a hyena skirting at the edges of a crowd, expecting a boot to the ribs.

It was another form of control. They take your body from you and then tell you it was never yours to begin with. Then they give it back and tell you to feel shame.

“The whole universe not white and sanitary,” Sabaal said. “In fact, most of it is quite beautifully flawed.”

That had led her to believe silence is a form of self-preservation.

About the Author

P.K. Tyler is the author of Speculative Fiction and other Genre Bending novels. She’s also published works as Pavarti K. Tyler and had projects appear on the USA TODAY Bestseller’s List.

“Tyler is essentially the indie scene’s Margaret Atwood; she incorporates sci-fi elements into her novels, which deal with topics such as spirituality, gender, sexuality and power dynamics.” – IndieReader

Pav attended Smith College and graduated with a degree in Theatre. She lived in New York, where she worked as a Dramaturge, Assistant Director and Production Manager on productions both on and off-Broadway. Later, Pavarti went to work in the finance industry for several international law firms. Now located in Baltimore Maryland, she lives with her husband, two daughters and two terrible dogs. When not penning science fiction books and other speculative fiction novels, she twists her mind by writing horror and erotica.

You can follow PK Tyler on Facebook, Twitter, and sign up for her newsletter, or visit her website here.

You’re the head of marketing for Novel Publicity, a business woman, and an award winning author. What does a typical day work day look like for you?
P.K.: A lot like this:

How do you find balance between working life, your family and everything else?
P.K.: Have a forgiving spouse? I don’t do everything, I can’t. It’s just not possible. Thank god for a man who loves to cook and clean! My kids are getting older now so they need less of my focus and more of my driving skills, so I do a lot of reading in the car waiting for them. I don’t know how to organize it, I kind of just do it. I’m really walking talking chaos so I’m the wrong person to give advice on this.
Have any tips for those of us that work from home?
P.K.: I’d say the most important thing is to accept that you can’t do it all and not only is that okay, it’s normal and good.

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